Prop. 36 Would Devastate the Drug Court System 

Prop. 36 Would Devastate the Drug Court System 
Posted by FoM on August 07, 2000 at 18:56:31 PT
By Martin Sheen
Source: Los Angeles Times
Justice: Without testing, there is no way to hold the addict accountable for the consequences of his behavior.   My heart breaks for people addicted to drugs and for their families. Clearly, we need to do everything possible to help drug abusers recover from their addictions and get on with their lives. But Proposition 36 isn't the answer. Decriminalizing dangerous and addictive drugs like heroin, crack cocaine, PCP and methamphetamine won't help drug abusers. 
Nor will we help drug abusers by removing the two essential incentives for successful drug treatment: consequences and accountability. Yet this is what Proposition 36, which is on the November ballot, proposes.   Without accountability and consequences, drug abusers have little incentive to change their behavior or take treatment seriously. To succeed, they must assume the responsibility for their own success. No matter how much love and support they receive from family and friends, they have to understand that ultimately they're the only ones who can make it happen.   Proposition 36 ignores this need for accountability by prohibiting any of the $120 million a year it appropriates from being used for drug testing--the key to effective treatment. Regular testing for drug use is what holds drug abusers accountable. Without it, there is no way to tell if the abusers have actually stopped using drugs.   Likewise, without consequences for failing a drug test, there's no incentive to pass. According to judges, prosecutors and probation officers who have reviewed Proposition 36, the initiative makes it nearly impossible for judges to impose any meaningful sanctions in cases where the abusers fail or refuse to take treatment seriously.   Proponents of Proposition 36 claim a similar initiative is working in Arizona. Yet Arizona's Maricopa County Dist. Atty. Richard Romley says the initiative has created a "nightmare" by preventing judges from sending drug offenders to jail if they fall to complete drug treatment. "Because drug offenders now realize there are no consequences for failing or refusing treatment, many are thumbing their noses at the court and continuing to abuse drugs," Romley says.   While claiming to be a treatment initiative, Proposition 36 fails to specify the standards of what constitutes a legitimate treatment program. This opens the door to ineffective programs run by unqualified operators.   The real damage done by Proposition 36 is the devastating impact it will have on California's increasingly popular drug courts, which are helping thousands of drug abusers break their addictions.   Drug courts provide precisely what Proposition 36 fails to deliver: court-supervised treatment with regular drug testing and consequences that hold participants accountable if they fail to take treatment seriously. Drug courts have a remarkable 65% to 85% success rate, whereas the success rate for the treatment programs proposed by Proposition 36, in which testing and consequences are lacking, are typically less than half that.   Drug courts work because they bring a team approach to the problem of drug addiction. Judges, prosecutors, defense lawyers, substance abuse treatment specialists, probation officers, vocational experts and others work together to help offenders deal successfully with substance abuse problems.   California's drug courts place drug offenders in appropriate treatment programs tailored to their individual needs without compromising public safety.   If offenders are a public safety risk, judges have the authority to incarcerate them. If they fail treatment, judges have the option of sending them to jail.   For every dollar invested in the system, drug courts save taxpayers an estimated $10 because of reduced jail and prison time, less criminal activity and lower criminal justice costs.   We should be expanding drug courts, not putting them out of business. Approving a measure that would increase the number of drug courts operating in California would produce a far greater return for taxpayers, drug abusers and their families.   This isn't a debate over whether drug abusers should be given jail or treatment. It's a choice between treatment that works and treatment that doesn't. Actor Martin Sheen Is Honorary Chair of Californians United Against Drug Abuse, the Committee Opposing Proposition 36Contact: letters Published: Monday, August 7, 2000 Copyright 2000 Los Angeles Times Related Articles & Web Site:California Campaign For New Drug Policy Measure Seen as Way to Legalize Drug Use Sheen Joins Foes of Drug Measure
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Comment #11 posted by Stephen Snell on July 11, 2001 at 15:07:34 PT:
Dan, I wasn't attacking you.
I can't remember how this started. When I was writing about Hitler I was referring to laws. My objection is to the big businesses who made the governments make some drugs illegal. It is a sad joke that marijuana is illegal and I am going to go have a smoke.
the jose wombat project
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Comment #10 posted by FoM on August 08, 2000 at 22:53:48 PT
Thanks Dan
What you did Dan was write your letter like you were talking to Martin Sheen. I really do understand where you are coming from. I really do. Cannabis shouldn't be classified with other drugs. Marijuana is an ancient medicinal plant. It is not a man made chemical. How do they ban what was put on the earth for us to use? Chemicals were made by man and that should automatically keep them in a different category.Peace, FoM!
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Comment #9 posted by Dan B on August 08, 2000 at 22:40:04 PT:
Too Much On Target
Actually, I think the problem was that I was too much on target for some people's tastes. That is, I chose to address my letter to a specific issue--the fact that marijuana is lumped in with all of the other drugs when it shouldn't be. I think some people got upset that I did not address the larger issue that it is pointless and harmful to incarcerate people for drug use, period.I want people to understand that the best way to make a point is to stick to the issue. I wasn't condoning incarceration of any drug users; I was merely stating my opinion about one very specific aspect of Martin Sheen's article that I felt needed to be addressed. And I was addressing the issue that seemed most likely to sway him. In other words, I was wanting one of those "partial victories" about which Dr. Ethan Russo rightly informed me.In essence, my desire to focus the issue is what caused the rift. I hope that those who objected can now understand why I wrote this letter the way I did. Thanks, dddd and FoM, for your kind words.Sincerely,Dan B
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Comment #8 posted by FoM on August 08, 2000 at 22:19:26 PT
Thanks dddd
Bless your heart dddd! I really like you.Take Care FoM!
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Comment #7 posted by dddd on August 08, 2000 at 20:57:39 PT
Understanding Misunderstandigs
 I'll ante up my 3 cents worth in with FoMs',and that will make a nickel. I dont think Stephen intended to besmirch Dan,or to suggest that Dan had a hitleresque agenda.I hope no one has been offended in any way. Here's my 1.5 cents for each of you; Stephen,I enjoyed your commentary,and I hope you will continue to join us here.I hope you realize that Dans' response was perhaps off target,but I appreciate the positive aspect of this,is that your comments are read and taken seriously here.I pissed everyone off here when I first started commenting here,by making silly joke-like postings.I rubbed alot of people the wrong way,and if my opinion was such as to rub someone the wrong way again,I would not hesitate to do it. Dan....Perhaps you did misunderstand Stephens' comment,or who knows,maybe he's an asshole who thinks you are like hitler...However this works out,dont let it dampen your sensitivity and spirit,it proves you are real,and that on top of being a good writer,you are also an attentive reader. I like to think that all this stuff is good........May JAH shine on you all.......dddd
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Comment #6 posted by Dan B on August 08, 2000 at 09:13:34 PT:
I understand, but . . .
FoM,You may be right. However, my main objection was to this statement:"'It's not only the sane thing to do; it's the right thing to do.' I wouldn't be surprised if Hitler said that as well."The statement he refers to there is found in my letter, not in the article by Martin Sheen, and that is why I took offense to it. I have a major problem with being compared to Hitler. But, in fairness, it may have been simply a case of poor wording. If so, I would ask only that Stephen make his comments more clear so as to avoid this kind of unpleasantness in the future.Thanks for the input, FoM. Your perspective is always appreciated.Sincerely,Dan B
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Comment #5 posted by FoM on August 08, 2000 at 07:50:17 PT
My 2 Cents
Hi Dan,Maybe I'm wrong but I believe that Stephen was make his comment on the news article. Thought I'd mention what I think.Peace, FoM!
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Comment #4 posted by Dan B on August 08, 2000 at 06:46:51 PT:
Stephen Snell,
You obviously do not understand the letter as written. It does not call for laws against drugs, it calls for a separation of the drug markets. It does not prescribe a set of drug laws, it merely suggests that the laws we have now and the law under Prop. 36 would both be flawed. It does not prescribe anything other than the legalization of marijuana--something to which you obviously do not object.If we are going to win this war, we are going to have to be articulate and choose our battles carefully and wisely. I deeply resent your assertion that my words are like the words of Hitler. Such character assassinations will get you nowhere, and frankly you are barking up the wrong tree. I am not the enemy; I am trying to get the enemy to see that there is a better way. Marijuana legalization would be a huge step in the right direction, wouldn't you agree?Next time, think before you assasinate my character or anyone else's character, especially if you are not willing to carefully read what is written. And by the way, "concur" is the opposite of "divide." Look it up.
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Comment #3 posted by Stephen Snell on August 08, 2000 at 01:12:04 PT:
subject 36
'It's not only the sane thing to do; it's the right thing to do.' I wouldn't be surprised if Hitler said that as well.Everyone is free to be as wrong as they please, call themselves the authority and have people believe them. We have the Christian double moral where it is okay to take drugs like coffee, nicotine, pain killers, alcohol and who knows what all. Those drug addicts are socially acceptable and not put in jail. Other drugs which don't fit into the double moral system of preaching love and hating your enemy, consuming TV and pointing the finger at the bad guy receive brutal anti marketing.Wake up kids. Making drugs illegal helps nothing but to seperate society. Devide and concur.In thirty years, if we haven't killed ourselves trying to decide what people are allowed to do and not allowed to do, they will look at some of our laws and wonder if the law makers weren't all on drugs.Drugs aren't the trouble here. And if someone doesn't wake up to the fact, we are going to destroy many lives by telling people what they can and can't consume.I don't want the authorities dictating to me that alcohol is better than cannibus because I know they are wrong. They may have given themselves the power but as history shows again and again, the power is very seldom looking out for anyone's interest but their own. You drink your beer, let me smoke my joint.Steve
The Jose Wombat Project
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Comment #2 posted by dddd on August 07, 2000 at 23:38:34 PT
Well stated Dan. It's of eminent significance that Mr. Sheen excluded marijuana from his list. Mr. Sheen has always been one to be in favor of decent causes,but I think he's on the wrong side of this one. Even though,as Dan mentioned,his kid had a drug problem,I am dissappointed to see him come out to publicly oppose 36. I have no doubt,that the forces behind this "no on 36" movement,are driven by dishonourable motives,and "soft" monetary support from the ondcp,and other sordid entities. The dichotomous flavor of;"Without accountability and consequences, drug abusers have little incentive to change their behavior or taketreatment seriously. To succeed, they must assume the responsibility for their own success. No matter how muchlove and support they receive from family and friends, they have to understand that ultimately they're the onlyones who can make it happen." This is absurd,and somewhat frightening.In other words;'No matter what your family and friends do,it wont work.You need the governments threats and incarceration,with some overlord member of the drug court judges association to assist you in coming around to the proper and accepted behavior,and MAKE you realize;"understand that ultimately they're the onlyones who can make it happen." It would be nice if Mr. Sheen would explain the details of why marijuana was not on his list,yet under the present law that he advocates,it is lumped in with all the others he mentioned.WAKE UP MARTIN!!!..............dddd 
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Comment #1 posted by Dan B on August 07, 2000 at 22:31:09 PT:
Open Letter to Mr. Sheen
Mr. Martin Sheen,I respect the time and effort spent in your recent well-written article published in the Los Angeles Times against Proposition 36. I understand that you have been affected by this issue on a personal level, and I respect that you have taken the time to express your reasoning concerning your opposition to this proposition.While I agree that efforts to help drug addicts recover from their addictions are an essential element of sane drug policy, I must share my objections to the government's approach to drug use in general. Upon reading this letter, I hope that you will understand why I have problems with both the current drug system and the system that would be put into place should the people of California vote "yes" on Proposition 36.Many Americans come home after a long day of work, sit down to a hot meal, then relax on the sofa with a cold beer or two. Many of these people are responsible citizens who do not go out and drive after drinking that beer, and I believe that we are right to allow these people who know how to drink responsibly to do so in the privacy of their own homes.Others prefer a glass of wine, and still others relax with a fine cigar. All of these activities are perfectly legal, and I believe they should continue to be legal. Suppose, however, that that same hard-working American comes home after a long day and, instead of that cold beer, glass of wine, or fine cigar, decides to relax with a pipe bowl of marijuana or a marijuana cigarette. While many Americans can and do smoke this substance in a responsible fashion (The government's own statistics show that less than 1% of marijuana users use it once per day or more), merely possessing this substance is a federal felony for which this hard-working American can spend time behind bars.I appreciate that the drugs you mention in your letter--crack cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, and PCP--can be dangerous and addictive. Although we may disagree as to the kinds of the measures taken by the government, I do believe that measures should be taken to help people who are addicted to these substances beat their addictions. But when the government mentions "drugs," the policies are always most specifically aimed at the use of marijuana--a substance that, in comparison with the other drugs on your list, is relatively harmless and, according to medical professionals and government-sponsored studies like the recent Institutes of Medicine report, non-addictive. Many who argue against lifting the current ban on marijuana use claim that it is a gateway drug which leads to the use of harder drugs. Again, the IOM report and several other studies and medical professionals denounce this claim, suggesting instead that the "gateway theory" is an effect of marijuana prohibition, rather than an effect of the drug itself. In other words, the fact that marijuana is sold on the black market alongside other, more harmful substances makes it more likely that users of marijuana will come into contact with harder drugs.When we examine the policies of other countries that have, in effect, legalized marijuana, we find that hard drug use in those countries is substantially less than hard drug use in countries like the U.S. that relegate marijuana to the black market. And marijuana consumption in those countries remains at about the same level we have under marijuana prohibition.It seems, then, that a sane drug policy would seek to separate the market for marijuana from the market for hard drugs, thereby curbing the possibility that the user of marijuana would come into contact with harder substances. Such a policy would free up valuable resources for treatment of those who are truly addicted to hard drugs, would greatly reduce the use of hard drugs over time, and would free up prison space for truly violent criminals. It would also allow for regulation of the marijuana market, which is impossible when it is pushed into a black market beyond regulation.If marijuana were legalized, no more would we have to worry that the murderer or rapist might be set free to make more room for marijuana users who get caught for a third time. No more would we waste valuable money (that could be used for treatment of hard drug addicts) on forced treatment of those who use marijuana recreationally--those who really need no treatment, who use marijuana responsibly, like the person who drinks a beer after a long day at work. We don't arrest people for drinking whiskey or smoking cigarettes--both of which are far more dangerous than marijuana. Why, then, continue to arrest people for using the less harmful substance, marijuana?I am asking that you amend not your position regarding Proposition 36, but what appears to be your overall position concerning drug laws. I am asking that you examine the marijuana issue closely and, when you are satisfied that the position I have presented has merit, please speak out against its prohibition. It's not only the sane thing to do; it's the right thing to do.Respectfully,Dan B
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